Hard Rock Cafe celebrates ten years on Buchanan Street

How the venue came to be in Glasgow and a look through its extensive collection of rock and roll memorabilia.
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Buchanan Street’s home of rock and roll memorabilia and loaded burgers is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The Hard Rock Cafe opened in Glasgow’s city centre in November 2013, taking over the former Athenaeum Theatre and becoming the 139th venue of its kind globally. For a city steeped in such rich musical culture as this one, the venue is a foreground for highlighting our achievements

Speaking to General Manager, Gordy Aitken, on the cafe’s own backstory and the pieces of memorabilia it showcases, he said: “Go back to 1971, the first Hard Rock Cafe opened down in London. It was just a place that people could go and hang out, it wasn’t for posh people, it wasn’t a greasy spoon, it was somewhere in between. One day, people like Eric Clapton, people like Pete Townsend, they’d be at the bar, having a drink, hanging out, chatting about whatever they wanted too. And then they got quite famous and Eric Clapton decided he wanted to mark his spot at the bar, so he asked the bartender if he could put his red Fender there. 

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“About three weeks later a box arrived with a little note from Pete Townsend that said ‘if you can put his guitar behind the bar, you can put my guitar behind the bar too’. So they put Pete Townsend’s Flying V behind the bar too. If you were to go into the old Park Lane Cafe today, those two guitars are still behind the bar to mark their spots and that’s how the memorabilia started.

“Fast forward to ten years ago we were looking to open up a cafe in Glasgow, we were looking for the right location for years, literally 15 years since the cafe in Edinburgh, the other Scottish cafe, opened. Luckily we got this amazing, amazing old theatre - the Athenaeum on Buchanan Street, and then we started piecing the puzzles together about how the cafe would look, ‘what important pieces of memorabilia are we going to put on the walls to really showcase what is unique about this city?’.

“A couple of great pieces of memorabilia that we have in this cafe - firstly we’ve got Angus Young from ACDC’s Gibson SG. An iconic Scottish/Australian rock band. We think they’re Scottish but they emigrated to Australia. Every single guest who walks through this restaurant walks past this guitar when they arrive, it’s stunning. But it’s also coupled with it’s trademark schoolboy outfit, it’s just amazing.

“Another great piece of memorabilia that we have is KT Tunstall’s Epiphone Firebird located in the main part of the restaurant. She used it in one of her music videos ‘Hold On’ and then she donated it to our Edinburgh cafe for their tenth anniversary 15 years ago, and then since we’ve acquired it and it’s now for every guest to see in the main restaurant just to the right of our stage. 

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“Included in our Scottish wall we’ve got four pieces of Frightened Rabbit memorabilia, my favourite part is their 2013 T in the Park signed set list - just an A4 piece of paper with the order of their songs but they’ve all signed it. For any Frightened Rabbit fan them playing at T in the Park and being Scottish was quite a big deal.

“Another part of our Scottish wall, not really Scottish, but it’s a kilt worn by Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band. The really cool thing about this is he wore it the last time he was on tour with the E Street band.

“We always felt it was really important to have a Hard Rock Cafe in Glasgow with its incredible music scene, right now but throughout history too. In the cafe we’ve got upwards of 100 memorabilia and quite a lot of them are local to us, some of them are international but quite a lot are local to us in Scotland. From contemporary artists like KT Tunstall and Frightened Rabbit to other artists such as Rod Stewart, Wet Wet Wet, Donavon even. And then onto AC/DC so we’ve got a real eclectic mix of different pieces of music history just on the walls.

“I can’t quite believe that we’re celebrating a decade of the Hard Rock Cafe on Buchanan Street - it’s been a fast 10 years! The restaurant has had so many great highlights during that time. For me, that was Glasgow being chosen among selected cafes around the world to celebrate the global launch of the Lionel Messi collaboration with our epic Messi Burger event last year. 

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to our valued Glasgow staff and customers, and I’m looking forward to many more Hard Rock memories to come.” 

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